Today, I went to a literal hell hole on earth known as the Tokyo Immigration Bureau. It’s seriously one of the worst places on the planet, as it’s a total disorganized mess full of staff that mostly cannot speak any language except Japanese (because, you know, why would you have somebody who could speak English or Chinese or Korean working at JAPAN’S IMMIGRATION BUREAU? That makes too much sense, and that much logic isn’t allowed in Japan), and miserable people waiting for hours and hours to get simple things done, like picking up an old Zairyu card with a hole punched through it and a new Zairyu card with one adjustment made to it… albeit it’s an important adjustment (more on that in a sec’). Talk about a place that needs some serious change. And in fact, if I was ever in a position to change things in Japan for the better of all humankind who exist here, I would change four things:
– Make kidnapping a crime, because in Japan, it’s perfectly legal to kidnap children. As long as you have possession of a child and you want to divorce somebody, you can just get up and leave with a child and disappear, and absolutely NOTHING can be done about it. The police will tell you it’s a “family matter” and they won’t get involved. Then, when you get divorced, as a father, you are automatically given the boot and removed from your child’s life (or children, if you have more than one).
-Change how people communicate with each other. I would love nothing more than to see people realize that lying to preserve social harmony hurts more people than it actually helps. And in Japan, it’s an art form to lie to people for the sake of avoiding having to disagree with somebody, or say the word “no”, or cause any kind of a problem in society.
-Get rid of Katakana. Legit, for real, it’s a useless vocabulary system. You can say EXACTLY the same words using Hiragana as you can Katakana… there is NO point in the usage of Katakana, except because people here have been using it forever, they don’t want to change the tradition, nonsensical as it is for people who grow up here to learn another language set and for foreigners who come here and struggle to wrap their heads around Hiragana AND all that damn Kanji! This ridiculous holding on for the sake of holding on is kind of how everywhere you go in Japan.
For example, you won’t find garbage cans readily available. This is in direct response to the Subway Sarin Gas Attack by Aum Shinrikyo, ALMOST THREE FUCKING DECADES AGO! And here’s the kicker: NO GARBAGE CANS were even involved in the subway Sarin Gas attack, yet garbage cans all but disappeared everywhere. Why is that still a problem or a concern?
Well, don’t even get me started on Tattoos and onsens….
-Completely revamp and change the immigration policies and the Immigration Bureau’s setup itself. This last thing I want to change I actually think I would do a pretty damn good job of revising, since I’ve been through this system twice now to stay in Japan, and I can readily identify many things that can be improved easily. For example, when you are waiting for your number to be called, you have to be right in front of the screen that displays the numbers being called… so you can’t go anywhere else in the giant immigration building and sit down without having to constantly go back upstairs in the smaller, much more densely packaged waiting room area with not enough places to stand and sit, and hope your number hasn’t been called while you were trying to catch your breath outside or downstairs. The solution? A fucking SET OF MONITORS THROUGHOUT THE BUILDING THAT SCROLLS THE NUMBERS, so you can be anywhere and not have to constantly be on edge and worrying about your number being called while you were in the bathroom or outside or whatever. And this would also remove the crowding problem upstairs in the bureau. I mean… this took me all of three seconds to observe and find a solution for. Can you imagine if I could actually have REAL power to do some changes there? The immigration experience would not be so damn miserable.
That being said, this was my second visit to go there, because I needed to go buy the 4000 yen stamp (yes, it’s FUCKING 4ooo yen for a SINGLE STAMP) to place on the official PAPER document (Hello, digital records, anybody?) you need to submit in order to have somebody use a hole puncher to eliminate your old Zaiyru card and then give you a new one that shows whether you’ve been granted your 1 year, 3 year, or 5 year visa. I applied for a five year visa. I ended up with a three year visa. I’ll take it, but still don’t know why I was not given the five year visa, and no explanation was given to me, and that was that. No “Congratulations” or “Welcome to Japan”…. nothing.
Oh, and on this second trip to the Bureau, I waited 5 hours to be handed the Zairyu card. During the first time when I went and applied for renewal here, I was at the immigration bureau for TWELVE FUCKING HOURS waiting around to talk to several people.
TWELVE. FUCKING. HOURS.
Anyway, it’s all over! And guess what? I did it! I’m still here! I’m still able to follow my dreams here in Japan!
You might think I don’t want to live here, given how critical I am of this country, but don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m that one dimensional. I’m not. I very much LOVE Japan, and all it has to offer the world. This country gave me Nintendo, and so many other wonderful things that were part of the best memories of my life. And I am inspired every single time I stand in front of an idol and they blow me away with their incredible performance and singing and dancing. Or the good friends I’ve found here, and the women I’ve been lucky enough to know while I’ve spent time living in this country and coming here all these years. Yeah, I’m right where I’m supposed to be, despite all the problems I encounter here on a regular basis. That’s just how it is… and if I were back in America, this post would be three times as long, and I would have thirty times more to say, about just how fucked up the USA is. But… I’m still an American in my heart. I love my country, despite all its many flaws. I’m proud of my Italian-American heritage too. And I am also proud of my Japanese brothers and sisters who live in this country and struggle to make sense of their lives just like I’m doing. We’re all in this together, and that much Japan kind of got right… collectively, everybody here works their assess off to do what they need to do to survive. I can respect that. I really can.
I’m here for another three years. Today it rained so much. The rain was of course sticky with a summer like humidity, but without any of the warmth of summer. I kind of liked it. The sky was cloudy, dreary, and very much the Tokyo I love (because I’m weird like that and enjoy clouds in my sky. It doesn’t feel safe to me when the sun is shining too brightly in my existence). I hope I can make a difference here. I hope I can achieve my goals here, which is to write my novels, make my retro RPG videogame, and continue to make music and support idols and help these idols reach overseas fans. That’s it. That’s what I’m going to try my best to do while I’m here. I’ll probably keep being horribly without money, but I’m still holding out for a patron to support me and help me, and until then, I’ll do it myself as much as I can and for myself. My visa is my permission to fight on. And fight on I shall.
Love you all. Stay happy.